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Laurel Locomotives javelin thrower Daeja Fike searching for feeling of deja vu as she closes her career

Laurel's Daeja Fike
Laurel's Daeja Fike
Posted at 2:47 PM, May 15, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-15 16:47:31-04

BILLINGS — Daeja Fike isn’t looking to recapture glory as much as she is a feeling.

That moment when everything just … clicks.

Fike had that feeling for a stretch at the end of her sophomore year. Starting with the Midland Roundtable Top 10 track and field meet where she threw the javelin 143 feet, 11 inches, to the Eastern A divisional (143-10) and then the Class A state meet (142-8), Fike’s form was in sync like it wasn’t before and maybe hasn’t been since.

The results were there, to be sure. The Laurel senior has the medals to prove that. After winning the state title in 2022, Fike was runner-up last season, tossing 131-1 at state,10 feet off her season-best of 141-2. And as this season — her final one, since Fike is doubtful about throwing in college — comes to a close, she currently has the top throw in the state regardless of class at 142-3.

To this day, though, Fike’s personal record remains that long throw on her home grounds at Laurel High School during her sophomore year at the Top 10.

“Javelin is so technical,” Fike said. “All the things have to line up in order for it to fly or be a really good throw. When everything lines up, you can tell it’s a good throw and it’s just a good feeling. That’s our whole purpose of training is to be able to hit every position and hit all the things you need to be able to hit and so that when you hit them it flies.”

If one small detail is off in a javelin thrower’s technique, distance drops. Is the javelin tip too far to the right or left at release? Are the toes going straight ahead? Over the years, muscle growth could mean a different part of your body may be influencing the throw in a different manner, which requires its own adjustment.

Distance gains and losses are constants in a javelin thrower’s career, according to Laurel javelin coach Mike Lee. For Fike to have a PR that’s more than two years old is not unusual, Lee said.

He brought up former Huntley Project standout Emily Poole as an example. A two-time Class B state champion in the javelin, Poole left high school with a PR of 146-6, which she accomplished in her junior season in 2019. The 2020 spring season was cancelled due to COVID-19, meaning Poole didn’t get her senior season. She didn’t break the 150-foot barrier until March of this year, her senior season at the University of Nevada, before unleashing a throw of 166-7 just last week to win the Mountain West Outdoor Championships.

Laurel's Daeja Fike
Laurel senior Daeja Fike had the top javelin throw in the state regardless of class as of May 15, 2024.

In the javelin event, gains come slowly and with a lot of work. It takes a specific mindset to be able to ignore lengthy plateaus and believe in the process.

“I lose kids along the way during the season because they want more, they aren’t patient, and I just tell them that you’ve got to trust me,” said Lee, who said he appreciates the help given to him and Fike by Emily’s father, John, an All-American javelin thrower at the University of Texas. “You have to believe in what we’re doing, and you’ve got to be patient. … It’s just been great having Daeja because she wants to do more, she wants to do medicine ball workouts, she wants to work on arm bands, she wants to do video while she’s doing approaches with the javelin.”

The “wanting to do” can be the easy part, though. Fike admitted throwing the javelin can be a mental grind at times, especially if all you’re looking for is results. There’s more to it than that.

“It has been kind of hard, like, why am I not seeing results?” she said. “But I think I’m able to look at the bigger picture. What can I do with this practice to make me better in the long run? How can I make every practice worth something? I think it’s just trusting the process. I think that’s pretty common for all athletes, and it’s hard to do sometimes, but you really have to. There’s no other way to do it.”

Discussing the chase of PRs makes it easy to forget that Fike is still one of the best javelin throwers in the state and is in the top tier of favorites to win her second state title.

During the course of their careers, Fike and Butte Central’s Ella Moodry have had a personal back-and-forth that has turned into a supportive friendship. Moodry threw 125-10 to win the state title in 2021 (Fike finished 11th) before Fike had her breakout sophomore season, relegating Moodry to second place.

Moodry regained the title again last year, outdistancing Fike 133-8 to 131-1. They’re at the top of the Class A charts again this season, with Fike’s throw of 142-3 leading the rankings, followed by Moodry’s 138-5.

In a rare regular-season meeting the pair went head-to-head at the Joe Tacke Invitational May 11. The duo topped one another several times before Moodry tossed 136-8 on her final throw to best Fike’s 133-11.

For Lee, the coach, it was cool to see the way the two competed but also cheered one another on. Moodry and Fike have become good friends despite the competition, and after the meet they took a photo together.

“That was super fun,” Fike said. “We just chatted and we’re super good friends. It’s fun to relate to someone that’s kind of at the same place as you, but also compete against them in a friendly competition kind of way.”

That competition is likely to end with the state meet. While Moodry has plans to compete at Montana, Fike intends to go to BYU and study early childhood education. According to Lee, “10 to 15” NCAA Division I schools have contacted him about Fike’s future, but the Laurel star intends to leave track and field behind her when she goes to Utah.

Fike is also a key member of Laurel’s relay teams, which are both ranked in the top 6, and she’s also run the 100, 200 and 400 opens.

“She’s just one of those kids that you’re just going to miss her because she’s so coachable,” Laurel head track coach Brandi Fox said. “She’ll do anything you ask her to do and not complain about it. She just knows she can go out there and do it.”

With just the divisional and state meets left in her high school career, Fike would, of course, like to go out with another javelin state championship. Foremost on her mind, though, is eclipsing that PR she logged when she was a sophomore.

It’s been elusive, and time is running out.

“For me, it’s more of the distance and the personal goal,” Fike said of her final ending. “I’m not as worried about (where I finish) as where I want to be with my throw.”

Then, she adds with a laugh: “I’ve been competing with my sophomore self for a while.”

And it’s all been a chase to regain that feeling when everything clicked.